Sheila Watt-Cloutier, OC (born 2 December 1953) is a Canadian Inuit activist. She has been a political representative for Inuit at the regional, national and international levels, most recently as International Chair for Inuit Circumpolar Council (formerly the Inuit Circumpolar Conference). Watt-Cloutier has worked on a range of social and environmental issues affecting Inuit, most recently, persistent organic pollutants and global warming. She has received numerous awards and honors for her work, and has been featured in a number of documentaries and profiled by journalists from all media. Watt-Cloutier sits as an advisor to Canada's Ecofiscal Commission. She is also a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier
Sheilawatt (cropped).jpg
Watt-Cloutier in 2009
Born (1953-12-02) December 2, 1953 (age 65)
AwardsOrder of Canada, Right Livelihood Award

Early life and careerEdit

Sheila Watt-Cloutier was born in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, Northern Quebec, Canada. Her mother was known as a skillful healer and interpreter throughout Nunavik, and her father was an officer for the RCMP. For the first ten years of her life, Sheila was raised traditionally, traveling on the land by dog sled, before she was sent away for school in Nova Scotia and Churchill, Manitoba. In the mid-1970s, she worked for the Ungava Hospital as an Inuktitut translator and strived to improve education and health conditions. From 1991 to 1995, she worked as a counsellor in the review process of the education system of Northern Quebec. This work led to the 1992 report on the educational system in Nunavik, Silaturnimut - The Pathway to Wisdom. Watt-Cloutier also contributed significantly to the youth awareness video Capturing Spirit: The Inuit Journey.[1]

Watt-Cloutier has a daughter, a son, and a grandson. Currently, Sheila Watt-Cloutier lives in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada.

Political positionsEdit

Watt-Cloutier has been a political representative for Inuit for over a decade. From 1995 to 1998, she was Corporate Secretary of Makivik Corporation, the Canadian Inuit land-claim organization established for Northern Quebec (Nunavik) under the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

In 1995, she was elected[1][2] President of Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) Canada, and re-elected in 1998.[1] ICC represents internationally the interests of Inuit in Russia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland. In this position, she served as the spokesperson for Arctic indigenous peoples in the negotiation of the Stockholm Convention banning the manufacture and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) or DDT. These substances pollute the Arctic food chain and accumulate in the bodies of Inuit, many of whom continue to subsist on local country food.[3]

In 2002, she was elected[1][4] International Chair of ICC, a position she would hold until 2006.[1] Most recently, her work has emphasized the human face of the impacts of global climate change in the Arctic. On December 7, 2005, based on the findings of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, which projects that Inuit hunting culture may not survive the loss of sea ice and other changes projected over the coming decades, she launched the world's first international legal action on climate change: a petition, along with 62 Inuit Hunters and Elders from communities across Canada and Alaska, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging that unchecked emissions of greenhouse gases from the United States have violated Inuit cultural and environmental human rights as guaranteed by the 1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.[5] Although the IACHR decided against hearing her petition, the Commission invited Watt-Cloutier to testify with her international legal team (including lawyers from Earthjustice and the Center for International Environmental Law) at their first hearing on climate change and human rights on March 1, 2007.

Her book The Right to Be Cold, about the effects of climate change on Inuit communities, was published by Allen Lane - Penguin Random House in 2015.[6]

Awards and honorsEdit


  • Global Environment Award, World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations - Washington, DC, USA (On behalf of ICC Canada)[7]












  • "The Inuit Journey Towards a POPs-Free World." Northern Lights Against POPs: Combating Toxic Threats in the Arctic. Ed. David Leonard Downie and Terry Fenge. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003. 256-267.
  • "Don’t Abandon the Arctic to Climate Change." The Globe and Mail 24 May 2006: A19.
  • "ICC responds to last week’s editorial." Nunatsiaq News 9 June 2006: Opinion.
  • "Nunavut must think big, not small, on polar bears." Nunatsiaq News 19 January 2007: Opinion.[37]
  • "The Strength to Go Forward." CBC: This I Believe 23 May 2007.[38]
  • "Canada's Way." The Ottawa Citizen 29 August 2007.[39]
  • "Ozone treaty offers insurance against climate change." The Globe and Mail 6 September 2007: A19.[40]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Sheila Watt-Cloutier's Biography at the Government of Canada's Networks of Centres of Excellence
  2. ^ Alaska Federation of Natives - Leadership Forum
  3. ^ See the Arctic Monitoring Assessment Programme (AMAP) for more information on POPs in the Arctic.
  4. ^ ICUN - The World Conservation Union
  5. ^ Sheila Watt-Cloutier's Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at the ICC, 7 December 2005. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
  6. ^ Penguin Random House Canada -The Right to Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  7. ^ 2002 WANGO Awards. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
  8. ^ The Sophie Prize, Winners, 2005, 14 June 2005. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
  9. ^ Champions of the Earth Winners 2005 (biography and speech. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
  10. ^ Governor General presents the Governor General's Northern Medal to Sheila Watt-Cloutier, 3 October 2005. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
  11. ^ 10th Annual Green Cross Millennium Awards. Retrieved 27 November 2006. (PDF)
  12. ^ Honorary Doctor of Laws - Sheila Watt-Cloutier 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
  13. ^ Canadian Environment Awards 2006, Citation of Lifetime Achievement. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
  14. ^ "Sheila Watt-Cloutier - Canadian Environment Awards Citation of Lifetime Achievement network". Canadian Geographic. 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-03.
  15. ^ Earth Day Canada Gala 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
  16. ^ Governor General to invest 38 recipients into the Order of Canada
  17. ^ Inuit leader nominated for Nobel
  18. ^ The Nobel Peace Prize - From Nomination to Ceremony Archived 2003-07-31 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Rachel Carson Prize Winners
  20. ^ U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's Presentation of the Mahdub ul Haq Human Development Award to Sheila Watt-Cloutier
  21. ^ Public Policy Forum Annual Testimonial Dinner & Awards Archived 2009-02-01 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Honorary Doctorates: Sheila Watt-Cloutier 2008
  23. ^ Honorary Degrees to be Awarded to 11
  24. ^ Spring 2008 Honorary Degree recipients announced
  25. ^ Honorary Doctorate: Sheila Watt-Cloutier 2008
  26. ^ Laurier to award two honorary doctorates at fall convocation
  27. ^ L'éminente écologiste Sheila Watt-Cloutier de passage à Québec pour recevoir un doctorat honoris causa de l'INRS
  28. ^ McMaster announces honorary degree recipients for Fall convocation
  29. ^ Heroes of the Environment 2008
  30. ^ The LaFontaine-Baldwin Lectures, Institute for Canadian Citizenship and the Dominion Institute
  31. ^ Spring convocation at Western
  32. ^ Notes for Convocation Address
  33. ^ Fall Convocation underway
  34. ^ Sheila Watt-Cloutier Honorary Degree Comments
  35. ^ Nation Builder: Environment, Sheila Watt-Cloutier
  36. ^ Right Livelihood Award for Sheila Watt Cloutier Archived 2015-10-02 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ Nunavut must think big, not small, on polar bears, Retrieved 1 February 2007.
  38. ^ This I Believe: "The Strength to Go Forward", Retrieved 20 August 2007.
  39. ^ Canada's Way, Retrieved 22 September 2007.
  40. ^ Ozone treaty offers insurance against climate change, Retrieved 22 September 2007.

External linksEdit